Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jesus First Speaks Up after the Convention

Jesus First remained quite active politically before the convention. They pushed very hard for the reelection of then President Kieschnick and other like-minded incumbents. After the convention the site went dormant for a time. In a way this was appropriate. The time for political rhetoric had passed. I commend them for not immediately reacting to what certainly was a disappointing election. Some believe that Kieschnick himself did not see his own defeat coming. However, he handled the shock with grace, even if his face betrayed the mixed feelings within his mind and heart.

Now, however, they are speaking up once again. To their credit they appear to be giving the new president a chance and resisting the temptation to criticize his views that are not in line with their own. This will be a difficult time for them since President Harrison represents a conservative approach not in sympathy with many of their desires, as well as similar ones in the DayStar group.

So instead of focusing on the new administration they have chosen instead to come down hard on the new group ACELC, or the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Churches. This group, it appears from my view, has not even enjoyed across-the-board support and endorsement from all within the confessional fold (for example, Steadfast Lutherans have shown support, while the Rev. Paul McCain of CPH has not.) Since I have not reviewed their statements I will withhold any personal critiques here. If you are interested you can visited their site and read all that they have written. When I catch up on my studies at the end of the month I plan to do this myself.

But let's go back to Jesus First. What are their concerns? They call what the ACELC is doing an "inappropriate admonition." They believe that the mailing they sent to all LCMS congregations outlining their concerns was out of order in terms of the way the church addresses concerns. They believe that many of the concerns raised by the ACELC criticize positions adopted by the LCMS in convention, and are therefore inappropriate in that they are not being addressed through the dispute process of the Synod itself. According to them writing letters like this was unchurchly, if I can invent a word for the occasion. As a side note one wonders how their criticisms in this situation might address their own frequent and sometimes strong hitting correspondence to the members of the synod through mailings and the internet, especially leading up to the convention. Might there be a double standard at work here?

In its overall address of their concerns with the ACELC, they offer two additional articles. "That Which Jesus First Cannot Accept" would be worth reading for those interested in a brief primer of their overall agenda. In their very first statement they declare: "We understand that there is a lack of conformity within the Synod. But we hold that we have great unity in doctrine." This remains a point not only of continued contention, but of disagreement even in perception. For the sake of brevity let me suggest but one issue that speaks against this assertion. Close Communion. It's been affirmed several times over the last 40+ years in convention. Yet the Florida-Georgia District itself rebelled against it. Countless LCMS parishes practice a form of functionally open communion every Sunday. Can I document my charge? Well, I do not have to travel far even in my own district to find parishes that violate the Synod's position. In fact, I don't even have to go looking for them. It comes to me through members who visit neighboring churches and return confused and angry that we lack the flexibility and loving concern of these other sister congregations. How is it that they can open their altar to other Lutherans and members of other denominations and we can not? No one is disciplining them, so it must be ok - a sign of accepted flexibility and trust of our other churches, right?

I have fought too many battles in my ministry in defending the Synod's position on communion fellowship to accept this latest statement by Jesus First without contesting their view of reality. They are simply wrong and living in a self-chosen fog. We can dicker about how best to address these concerns in the official structure and I will not take time here to do that. But the point remains: How do we address this glaring DISUNITY in doctrine in our midst? Obviously, we begin by calling it what it is and stop couching our words with such terms as "lack of conformity."

Sorry, Jesus First, I'm not on your page. You need to come clean about the real problems we face and offer a better way to address them than simply giving it a different name and pretending that it is what is not.


Rev. Todd Peperkorn said...

I have been working through a critique of the ACELC for a while now on my site. Go to and you'll find it.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you, Todd, for the link. I'll check it out.